Q: I have five ferrets that are allowed to be free most of the day in a ferret-proofed area. I am at home with them. Oliver came to us after being in a 1- by 2-foot cage for at least a year, not allowed out and underfed. We really have no idea of his age. He has some damage in his hind legs due to not being let out of the cage for so long, and he has become overweight. Some days are worse than others; some days he can’t walk and drags himself around. Today he couldn’t make it to the litter pan and made a mess on the floor (which isn’t that big a deal). Because he couldn’t walk, he then dragged himself through it. I feel really bad for him. I live in upstate New York, so outside exercise is not possible during bad weather. Do you have any ideas for me to help work his muscles? He lived a rough life before he found us.
A: It sounds like your ferret Oliver is very lucky to have found you. The first thing I would recommend is to take Oliver to a veterinarian for a thorough examination and work-up. It may be that Oliver is suffering from the early affects of insulinoma that can cause his blood sugar to be low, which causes difficultly in walking in the hind legs.
If your ferret’s blood glucose is normal and the problem is due to the way he was treated previously, then your veterinarian will likely recommend radiographs. Radiographs can tell if there were permanent changes to his bones and joints. It may be that there is arthritis from how he was kept before, and use of pain relievers might make him feel much better. There are other medications that can be used to lessen the pain and destruction from arthritis. Consult with your veterinarian about what pain relievers are safe for ferrets.
If there are secondary effects on your ferret’s muscles and ligaments from being confined improperly, there are other non-traditional methods to lessen his pain and help with movement including acupuncture, massage therapy and natural supplements.
In your ferret’s case, the first place to start is at your veterinarian’s office to rule out insulinoma and structural changes to his bones and muscles.